Friday, March 29, 2013

What to Do With All Those Easter Eggs? Make Egg Salad and Custard

With Easter only a few days away, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.

In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

So the raw eggs wouldn't go to waste, my mom made omelets or used them for baking. Ultimately I stopped making the feather-weight eggs.  They were just too much trouble. When I reverted to using hard boiled eggs, she'd turn those into egg salad.

Egg Salad with Crispy Bacon

The egg salad will taste better if you use the freshest eggs available. We're lucky to live near the Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets where Lily's Eggs sells their eggs. The yolks are bright orange, the whites clear and silky, the flavor naturally sweet.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes.


4 eggs, farmers' market fresh
1 tablespoon Italian parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, crisp, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil


In a saucepan cover the eggs with water and gently boil for 30 minutes. That may be longer than you're used to but cooking the eggs at a lower temperature makes the yolks moist and flaky.

Let the eggs cool, then peel and chop them by hand with a chef's knife. Mix together the eggs, parsley, capers, shallot, bacon, and mayonnaise. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with bread, crackers, or hearts of romaine.

The Easiest Custard You'll Ever Make
Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 90 minutes


2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 teaspoon sweet butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the eggs and 1/2 cup white sugar. Add the cream and (optional) vanilla and stir well.

Butter a large 8" round oven-proof baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Pour in the custard. Prepare a water bath by pouring 1" of water to a large roasting pan.

Put the custard into the water bath and bake for 45 minutes (the ramekins) or 75 minutes (the baking dish). Every 15 minutes rotate the baking dish and ramekins so they cook evenly. If the custard is browning too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top.

The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when moved.

Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream, or fresh berries.


Add 1/4 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup high quality chocolate, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup espresso, reduced to 1 tablespoon

Add both the nuts and chocolate

Add the nuts, chocolate, and reduced espresso

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's Up With Spam Comments?

You'd think part of the fun of posting online is hearing back from readers. The whole internet-is-great-for-community-building notion seems like such a good idea. The reality is kind of different.

For articles I wrote for NY TImes Dining and Huffington Post, some people would contribute thoughtful responses. But there were always those people who clearly had a pent up need to vent and my article gave them the opportunity to rant and rave anonymously.

Reading those comments was no fun.

The other sort of weirdness that comes from writing on the web are the spam-comments, sent for nefarious purposes (if you click on the link will your computer become infected and turn into one of the digital zombie hordes enlisted for god-knows-what-purposes?) or to do I don't know what.

And how did the individuals or the bots behind their comments choose my web site and the specific articles? Why did Easy-to-Make Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Vegetables  attract so many spam-comments?  What does that algorithm look like? Actually, what does any algorithm look like?

There is something like a tone poem in the three comments for the rotisserie chicken recipe:
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Friday, March 8, 2013

Asian Noodles Take a Trip to Italy

My wife is out town. I'm home alone and hungry. Since I work at the house, my usual routine is to write during the day and have dinner with my wife when she gets home from her office. Cooking our dinner gives shape to my day, since I plan the meal in the morning and do the prep when I'm taking breaks during the day.

Having dinner together is a fun part of the day. Over a meal with a salad, main course and a couple of side dishes, we have time to catch up.

Now I have to contemplate dinner for one and that's not as much fun.
Staring at the open refrigerator, considering what left-overs I could eat or what bits and pieces I could put together (a farmers market Fuji apple with slices of comte cheese and bacon from breakfast) to make a meal, a different approach occurred to me.

Having grown up eating instant ramen, a cup of noodles is always the way to go when hunger strikes. But I'm a bit hesitant to go that route because of the high salt content and the predominance of chemical additives in the soup base. Happily, shopping at Asian markets, it's easy to see that ramen is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to easy-to-make noodles.
Even in mainstream supermarkets, if you look in the Asian foods section, you'll find packages of dried egg and rice noodles. Go to an Asian market and the selection will border on the comic with row after row of fresh and dried noodles. Costing two or three dollars, one package of Asian noodles will easily feed 4-6 people.
If you want, you can certainly prepare the noodles with Asian sauces and ingredients. Personally, I like to combine the noodles with braised meat or poultry and vegetables from our local farmers market. The result is a deliciously comforting Asian-Italian fusion.

I like the dish so much, when my wife comes home, I'll make a bowl for her.

Asian Noodles, Italian Style

Use raw meat and poultry or leftovers from another meal. For stock, home made is preferable to avoid the excessive amounts of sodium in canned versions. The dish can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and poultry. Other vegetables can be added or substituted for the ones I used and, if you like heat, dust the braise with cayenne or a scattering of pepper flakes.

Serves 4


2 pounds uncooked deboned chicken, pork shoulder or top sirloin, washed, pat dried and thin sliced or use 1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken, pork or beef
1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, root ends removed, finely chopped
6 shiitake mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed to remove dirt, thin sliced
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled, cut into rounds
2 cups broccoli crowns, washed, sliced into florets
4 cups kale leaves, washed, stems removed or spinach leaves, washed, roughly chopped
2 cups stock, chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian, preferably home made
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1 pound of Asian noodles
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sweet butter (optional)


Heat a large pot with water. Bring to a boil. Unlike Italian pasta, Asian noodles do not require adding salt or oil to the water. Wait to add the noodles until the braise is finished because the drained noodles will congeal quickly.

In a large saucepan or chefs pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and shiitake mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.  If using uncooked chicken or meat, add now and cook until lightly browned.

Add the broccoli and kale and sauté until wilted. If using cooked chicken or meat, add along with the carrots and stock. Simmer 10 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt, pepper and (optional) the sweet butter. Reduce liquid to half by cooking another 5 minutes. Lower the flame.

Add the noodles to the boiling water and stir well using tongs or chop sticks to separate the noodles. Read directions for cooking time. Before draining, taste a noodle and confirm doneness. Drain.

Add the noodles to the braise and toss well to coat with the sauce.

Serve hot in bowls with chop sticks or on plates with forks and large spoons.